Lessons from Cheerios’ near-PR crisis

What started as a campaign to raise awareness for its honeybee mascot—and the brand—turned into a sticky situation for General Mills. Here are strategies communicators can learn from it.

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By now, you might have read about (or seen) the Honey Nut Cheerios campaign to save the honey bee—a clever marketing stunt that recently burst into the spotlight, although likely not in the way General Mills, the parent company, would have hoped.

Quick recap for those who don’t have a thumb to the beat of the cereal industry: amidst its seventh straight quarterly decline in sales, and in an attempt to raise awareness of the honeybee’s critical role as a pollinator of many of the world’s most important crops, General Mills decided to strip the Honey Nut Cheerio box of its famous mascot, BuzzBee. But they didn’t stop there; in addition to liberating BuzzBee from his duties, General Mills partnered with Canadian company Veseys Seeds Ltd. to distribute nearly 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to people across the country. Plant more flowers, and you increase the natural pollination habitat for the struggling species — or so the theory goes.

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